Tag Archives: illness

Time to make some changes.

 

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Change. We all go through it whether we are ready or not. It’s programmed within us to adapt, to allow for change and to react. It can be scary, it can also be enlightening and liberating, or it can be in the form of a huge hurdle that seems almost impossible to overcome.

I have been a little quiet the past few months dealing with my own changes and most importantly, learning how to change myself to be happier and more appreciative of myself. I inadvertently stopped blogging, posting on social media and even stopped looking at myself in the mirror. I felt disgusting in my own skin, and for someone who has gone through so much health wise and changes with their body – this was the final straw for me.

After my last BB competition in July last year where I didn’t look my best because of stress catching up to me at the very last minute, making my body do some crazy things and holding a crazy amount of water and fat – I blew out. Now for those who don’t know what I mean by ‘blew out’, I ate anything and everything in sight as soon as I stepped off the stage. I still went to the gym and hit some impressive numbers with my lifts (probably the only bonus of this horrible time for me) but I was hurting so much inside and felt absolutely useless and like a disgrace. I had dieted for 20 weeks and then just threw it all away and gained so much weight I no longer recognized myself. I hated what I saw in the mirror. I hated myself for what I had become.

I was downright depressed. I had Chronic Fatigue settling in, my glandular fever was making a comeback and my Ostomy was flaring up with horrible irrigation as a result. My health both mentally and physically was appalling. I had spent just over 2 years repairing my digestive system and regaining my menstrual cycle after not having it for 6 years since falling ill, and I felt like I was the biggest failure as a result of my epic food binging.

I had every intention to compete at the Arnold Classic in March but it just was not my time, and was not for me. I could not put my body through any more drastic dieting or excessive cardio. I realise now that my heart wasn’t in it either and I wanted to compete for all the wrong reasons – Bodybuilding for me is all or nothing, and if your mind isn’t in a good place then competing is off the table. This is also why I have zero plans to compete again in the near future. I simply do not have that fire or passion that I had for my first competition prep, and until that fire ignites within me again I will not be putting myself through another arduous process.

Fast forward to today, where I have completed changed my nutrition and training habits, and have taken responsibility for it as I now look after myself. I now follow IIFYM (If it fits your macros/flexible dieting) and track everything I eat and it has been the best thing I have done for myself in a long time. I don’t eat excessive amounts of junk food, but rather I eat more volume in my food and variety. I have the choice without feeling guilt to eat a burger and chips as long as it fits. I went from a standard ‘high repetition’ training program back to lifting heavy and working my strength back up – I am now lifting for me again. I have changed from doing all the things that didn’t really make me happy, to doing things that make me excited to wake up in the morning and to go to the gym and to no longer avoid coffee dates with friends or steering clear from a blueberry bagel. I have changed the way I see myself and the way I see food and it really is a beautiful thing. (If anybody wants help with IIFYM or training let me know – preacher over here!)

I changed my job as well in the past 2 months. I had a job that allowed me to travel and work in countries like China, Thailand and Malaysia but the hours and demanding workload meant that I had no time for my partner, friends and family or most importantly myself. I now work for the University I studied at and I am so happy there in my new role. I had to change my work mentality and understand that I will no longer see my ‘work family’ every day who I had grown very fond of over the past 3 years, and realised that it was now time for me to grow professionally in a male dominated field with most people being double my age.

In the past few years I have experienced a lot of change. Some of it good, some of it bad and some of it… I still don’t know how to feel about. I had to change my attachment to people because it became all too clear that some people no longer served me and I valued our friendship more than they did. Yes it sucked. It really did. I changed the way I saw myself and what I thought I deserved. I changed my circle and those I held dear and close. What once was large, is now small and refined – somedays I get a little upset that I no longer have a large circle but other days I am more than content with those I have around me.

In order to change, we must identify what surrounds us and what is no longer doing us justice or making us happy. Happiness and wellbeing are so damn important and I cannot stress enough the importance of being happy and healthy on the inside before you see the changes on the outside – not just the physical, but what you emit.

I’ll do my best to write more – sorry I have been MIA. Changes were happening 😉

IG: @_kaitb E: kaitland.burrows@live.com

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Block out – Part I

The human mind is an amazing machine. It has the ability to switch on, and switch off at any given moment; whether you’re unfortunately third-wheeling and being part of a boring, mundane conversation or you are trying to suppress a memory or a thought… or better yet, the pain you feel when you’re on your last set of a heavy lift.

Pain. It’s a pesky four-letter word that each and everyone one of us will feel in our lifetime – some more than others. It can be physical, emotional and also psychological; and at times they all co-exist and feed off one another, creating a mass of energy that can be unbearable and unmanageable for some. It can drive you over the edge (literally), it can influence your decisions and take over your life. It can also be fatal, tragic and downright debilitating.

This is a topic I never talk to anyone about; my own pain and my ability to completely eradicate any memory or feeling of it with a single switch-off. I have lived with chronic pain, day-in and day-out for almost ten years, since I first fell ill with Salmonella. In the early days, for the first two years, prior to diagnosis I would compare it to a constant stabbing pain. Picture having your intestines clenched with an iron fist and not letting go; and if it did, it would only grasp again with more force and power behind it. Doubled-over in pain, with your spine being completely rounded daily and unable to stand upright without having tears well up in your eyes. I have felt the absolute anguish of my body deteriorating and giving up on me; however, mentally I was able to continue to carry myself and continue to push on.

I was a chronic user of Valium/Diazepam, which is part of the ‘opiate family’ of painkillers likened to heroin. I took it every day for possibly a year and a half even when I was attending school – I don’t think I could’ve made it through the day without it. I was high as a kite most days, or very quiet and subdued. I would go from giggling uncontrollably at myself tripping up the stairs during school mass, to being the most placid and calm person in the back of the room not saying a word – my emotions, needless to say where all over the place. However, I never felt any pain. My mind was clear and I was able to make it through the day without having dark thoughts or wanting to gouge my stomach out.

I felt free. Alive. Human.

I guess I formed an addiction, or a reliance rather on them. I became dependant. The very thought of not popping a pill every day would cause me anxiety. It was the only thing keeping me mentally sane. Looking back, I know it wasn’t the best thing for me; but at the same time I think it is a large part of why I am here today. It helped strengthen my mind, learn to block-out pain as I became used to the ‘clouded’ airy-fairy feeling. The day I stopped taking them was not by choice. It was the day I had my permanent Chait Caecostomy surgery.

A lady from the Drug & Alcoholic Association visited me as I woke up from surgery and had asked for a valium. After violently throwing up waking up from surgery, sheets absolutely saturated in blood and feeling like my whole right side was on fire I just wanted to block out the pain like I always have. She gave me a counselling session as I was trying to wake up, all groggy and trying to absorb what had just happened to my body. She took the valium away from me and said I will never be needing this again. She probably saved me from a permanent addiction – but I did hate her for a good solid fortnight before I got over it!

When I had my surgery and was told I would no longer have my miracle drug, I decided to go cold-turkey. I had no painkillers whatsoever post-surgery; not even an aspirin. I told myself that then and there would be the time that I turn my life around. I gave myself a good, hard talking to and from then on I became the master of suppressing emotions and pain.There would be no more hurt, both physically and emotionally. I would no longer rely on medication to heal myself. I would do it on my own through sheer willpower, and a mind over matter approach.

When you feel like it’s all too much, like you can no longer continue to push on through whatever you’re going through I want you to remember that you are a lot more capable than what you think you are. The mind is there to be utilised to your advantage. It can be moulded, shaped and used as a tool to block-out demons and all that do you harm.

More on this soon…

Shape Magazine Article!

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I was contacted a few months ago by the editor of Shape magazine Australia, Alison Turner for an interview as she saw a post on Facebook that City Gym (the gym I go to) posted about me and my journey thus far.

Never in a million years did I think that I would be contacted for an interview, let a lone have a full back page photo and article dedicated to me! Wow! I can’t even put into words the feeling I got when I purchased the magazine and flicked through the pages and saw little old me. I was beaming with pride!

Please go out and buy it if you want to have a read, or for my international followers if you would like a copy let me know!

Here’s hoping for a cover next time 😉

“You Look Fine”

The three most dreaded words you can say to someone living with an invisible illness like myself.

Every day I wake up with a deep burning sensation in my gut. Right where the incision was made. To everybody else I look completely happy and healthy, living a life without pain, when honestly I’m mentally suppressing the hurt around my stoma. If I think long and hard about it enough, it will show on my face and to the world.

Like the name suggests, its an invisible illness. Something not visible to the naked eye. 1 in 2 people live with an invisible illness and this week is awareness week.

Chronic pain, fatigue, mental illness, arthritis, Chrons and IBD … Just to name a few. There are more people than you think you know who are suffering in silence.

This week I ask you all to be a little more conscious of what you say around others, for you do not know their story or their struggle. Most of us choose to live a life without question or doubt, we choose to have a ‘healthy’ preface and to soldier on through our difficult times with a smile on our face, when deep down we are hurting on the inside.

Everybody has a face they want to show the world. I choose to be a strong, independent and healthy role model who hides her pain internally for if I am to show it publicly it only gets worse.

We may suffer in silence, but the pain and mental anguish remains.

Think before you speak.

The Walls Came Down…

Everybody struggles to find their ‘significant other’ at the best of times. It’s as though we search and search, only to find ourselves looking blankly at disappointment and heartache on every corner. But then we find someone who we actually want to share moments with, to be in the same room with for longer than an hour and who we can bare our souls to. We seem to forget that the most important relationship we will ever have, is the one with ourselves.

Having an Ostomy at 17 years of age, which let’s face it is prime boyfriend/girlfriend finding time did put some doubt in my mind about ‘finding someone’. All of my friends either had a partner, were dating or were enjoying the single life without actually ever being alone. Then there was me. Hunched over, doubled-over in pain and longing for my next painkiller awaiting the next doctors’ orders.

Truth be told, I didn’t look at my Chait tube after surgery until I was completely alone and it was at the very least the second day after I had surgery. I had to have this time to reflect and try to let it sink in, that my body will never be the same both internally and externally. I will forever be changed in some light, no matter how many times my parents tried to tell me ‘you’re still the same person’. Nobody goes through what I have been through and comes out the same as they were before. It will either make you, or break you. Safe to say, looking back I have definitely came out on top!

For the next six months I battled with my body image and my mental state. I looked like I was happy and ‘better’ on the outside to everybody, but when I was alone and at home in the confines of bedroom walls I was empty, confused and albeit angry at the world. Of course the only person that could see right through me was my mother, who let me have my time to grieve and get over myself. To understand that I was the one who battled through it all and that there is nothing that anybody else could say to me to make me feel any better. Time. Time was what I needed. Time was what I was given –in every which way of the word!

It was through the failed relationships (Both partners and unfortunately best-friends), heartbreak and heartache and being used that I found myself again. Pretty sure this goes for everybody, whether they are healthy or have an existing medical condition like myself, that ‘acceptance’ is something that we all desire. We long to be accepted for our inner workings, for someone to appreciate our quirkiness and individual – what makes us all unique and true to ourselves. But how can we expect anybody to feel that way, if we don’t feel that way about ourselves?

Today, I have accepted that I have been through absolute hell and back more times than I would like to remember. I have been given a death sentence, been misdiagnosed more than anybody ever should and I have unfortunately fell through the system and been forgotten by medical practitioners and specialists. But I’m still here.

I have had days where I wanted to rip my Chait tube out (in the beginning, most definitely not now! I love my Ostomy!) and the thought of looking at myself in the mirror made me depressed, feel ugly and I couldn’t stand the sight of myself. I have felt my body waste away, and have had days where I couldn’t walk more than ten steps without breaking down into tears from sheer exhaustion and pain. I didn’t want to be touched, I hated being close to somebody no matter who they were or how long I had known them for. I wanted to be left alone and be by myself. Today I appreciate my body and my mind for all it has gone through. I can squat and deadlift more than my bodyweight, I have ran a half-marathon and I have such a great close circle of people around me who I wish I could spend more time with.

I was once ready to give up on the world. I wanted out. To sleep forever and to be rid of all the pain, mental struggle and the hurt that came with my surgery and my change in lifestyle. Today, I wake up everyday and live a life that is far from empty and dark.

Before, I could not stand the thought of talking about my medical condition or my thoughts. I was a closed book, unable to come to terms with my own issues and was not ready to share them with anybody else. Now, I am an open book. Nothing is off limits.

I am the strongest person I know, with ambition, drive and motivation like no-other. I am the hardest working person I know and I give my all or nothing to everything and anything I apply myself to. I am worthy of a life that is nothing short of a glass three-quarters full and I will never settle for anything less.

So today, I ask you as you read this to think of WHO you are and WHAT you deserve.

Find yourself, and the rest will follow.

Triumphant Transformation

We hear the term ‘transformation’ thrown around like it’s a common term nowadays. We have ‘Transformation Tuesday and Thursday’ where we boast and/or beam with pride of our achievements. We find ourselves transforming from adolescence into adulthood and we reflect on the changes that have been made – nights out getting drunk and stumbling home at 5am turn into nights in with a movie and in bed by 10pm. Transformation can happen on so many levels, yet we tend to focus heavily on the transformation that happens through diet and exercise. The physical transformation. Yes, we may reflect on the ‘I now love my body and can accept it because…’ but it’s not something that we tend to really focus on when it’s actually the most important transformation of all.

Our emotional and psychological transformation is the one that takes time to develop. It is on it’s way. Developing and unfolding before we even know it or can even recognise a glimpse of change. We are so bewildered by the fact that we can now wear our bikini on the beach for Summer with confidence and not a care in the world, but ignore the quintessential essence that is, that we have found beauty in ourselves.

Losing a few kilos and a dress size is the easy part. The maintaining a high level of self love and worth, as well as respect for yourself and admiration for your hard work and persistence is at times challenging for the most part. We lose ourselves if we focus on the physical too much, despite our goals to look good in a Wedding dress for the big day. The beauty of reaching our end goal, is the beauty that we struggle to see and/or have difficulty acknowledging.

We constantly feel like we perhaps are not good enough. We are blinded daily by the media of a celebrity who has gained weight, donning a bikini and in contrast we are shown another who has lost a tonne of weight and is lapping it up on the beach. We are shown photos. Images. Life-stills of that very moment they were captured. We are not shown nor do we hear about their emotional or psychological journey which is the most important one of all. For all we know they now have a healthier relationship with food, and an appreciation for their bodies capabilities.

This constant focus on the physical is something that needs to be changed from both the transformed, to the spectators. I don’t want to go into the cliche terms but I think I may have to – beauty is skin deep. Your physical transformation will always have it’s ups and downs. One day you will have a six pack and the next you will be sporting a one pack. It’s all a matter of time and circumstance. What you do with your mind and the way you hold yourself is another thing all together, and in my opinion is a hell of a lot more important than the striations in your delts or the veins in your forearms.

I will leave you with this thought – Do you want to be solely remembered as a beautiful mansion surrounded by water. One that has no warmth or love, with the only value being monetary and nothing personal OR as a warm home, one that is full of memories and may be showing signs of wear and tear – but at least it’s lived a life that is memorable and shows signs of hope, courage and love.

We are all a work in progress.

P.s – my physical and my internal transformation will be shared in coming days. Stay tuned.

Chronicle II: Teething.

After the seven days of antibiotics I was up and running again. I had the spring back in my step, and I was completely mobile. No more living in the bathroom with one end on the toilet and the other in a bucket for long periods of time. My diet no longer consisted of two things – dry milk arrowroot biscuits and flat lemonade. I was perfectly fine again. Healthy. I could walk ten steps without collapsing and without holding onto walls for support. I was no longer waking up in the morning and feeling so absolutely disgusted in myself for having had yet another accident. Because this blog is supposed to be brutally honest and a true reflection and account of my story, I have no shame in admitting that I had no control of my bowel to the point where I was in nappies – thankfully at this time my siblings were still in nappies so my mum didn’t need to buy any just for me (I have to find the funny side in any horrid situation!).

No longer did my mum come into my bedroom of a morning to see if I was alive, or to check if I had soiled myself again and was completely unaware. You may think ‘how the hell did she not know if she had an accident or not?’ – let me tell you, once you lose control of your bowel you lose control of your feelings and emotions. I was numb. Numb from the neck down. My nerves were all over the place and I could not for the life of me, feel any life within me.

The morning I woke up without having had soiled myself during the night, and where I didn’t wake up feeling like I would rather had gone to sleep forever and never wake up was the best feeling ever. I absolutely cannot put into words how elated I felt knowing that I was no longer in nappies, nor was I doubled-over in pain constantly and crying myself to sleep face-down in my pillow so my parents couldn’t hear my cries. I was no longer scratching at my thighs and digging my nails into my skin because the pain was excruciating as the Salmonella tore right through my insides.

I was back to normal. Alive. Healthy. Ready to live life again and go back to school.

The three months that followed my bounce-back after a nasty bout of Salmonella were an absolute mind boggling time for me. The first month my bowel was normal, I was regular. I had control and my bowel movements were perfectly healthy. I was eating a well-balanced diet as always – my mother is a fantastic cook and my step-family is Turkish so our version of a home cooked meal is a banquet of vegetables, fruits, grains and lots of meat!

There I was, back at school having missed the first fortnight and it was great to start back and be surrounded by friends. It honestly was like nothing had even happened, like I had had no nasty Salmonella and I was completely healthy like always.

Come the second month, and something changed. My bowel was erratic. I had gone from normal healthy bowel movements to ‘where is the closest toilet?’ diarrhoea. The on and off diarrhoea lasted a month from memory. I had severe bowel incontinence. At first I didn’t tell my mum. I figured it was something I was eating or it was nothing important or of concern – I was still able to pass a bowel motion so everything was okay, right?! I finally told my mum and we both put it down to maybe I was eating too much fibre so I cut my green vegetable intake and figured that would help.

The third month brought on another change. A change that would be permanent and a feeling that would last for the rest of my life. I was constipated to the point where no matter how much water I drank, how much fibre I had and I could drink endless cups of herbal teas and still no ease in the bathroom. I was straining so much I almost passed out a few times. Throbbing migraines, haemorrhoids and a bleeding rectum were the new fun moments of my bathroom habits. Again, I didn’t mention this to my mum until it was almost a week without a bowel movement – yes, I got to the point where I was unable to go to the toilet at all. My bowel stopped to a halt and I was so disgustingly backed up with faeces and in so much pain as my waste was turning toxic inside of me. Next thing you know I was in the chemist buying some over the counter laxatives to pass a stool and I felt more at ease.

Once again I was taken back to the doctors. The same doctor I had gone to when I first fell ill with Salmonella three months prior. I told him about the past three months and my erratic bowel patterns and behaviour – healthy movements, diarrhoea and then constipation. He listened attentively, nodded and wrote some notes down. He then proceeded to say the following, “There is a small chance of people who have ongoing effects of Salmonella. It’s something as small as 2% chances of ongoing medical issues due to damage caused – but you should be fine. Don’t forget you had a severe case of a Salmonella infection”.

I was given a cocktail of laxatives and sent on my way home. Told that the laxatives taken were mild and could be taken daily and to not exceed the minimum dosage because my bowel will re-regulate again and be okay. Okay?! I was far from it.

I refer to the three months post Salmonella as my ‘teething’ period. You know, the time when you are kind of okay and your body is preparing you for the next big phase in your life. It’s going through some big changes, changes that will set you up for growth.

The amount of growth I had ahead of me physically, mentally and emotionally were definitely not preconceived nor were they predetermined. It really was only the beginning.